Those Who Fear the Lord

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Biblical scholars universally recognise Psalm 112 as the second of a pair, with the previous psalm being the first. Both psalms open with “Praise the LORD!” (v. 1). Both are written in Hebrew acrostic, with each line beginning with the subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Words like “fear,” “delight,” “upright,” and “good” appear in both psalms. Psalm 111 closes with the claim that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (111:10), while Psalm 112 opens with a blessing pronounced on the one who fears the Lord (112:1).

The thematic link appears also significant. While Psalm 111 exhorts readers to praise the Lord as they focus on what he has done, Psalm 112 exhorts readers to praise the Lord with their actions in response to what he has done. Psalm 111, in other words, tells us what God has done and concludes that we should therefore fear the Lord. Psalm 112 begins with an exhortation to fear the Lord and goes on to say what that looks like.

Psalm 112 offers us a necessary reminder in the days in which we live. Particularly on social media, the virtues the psalmist lists here have been virtually abandoned. Consider the evidence of someone who fears the Lord and consider these virtues in light of your own interactions with others, both on social media and in face-to-face interactions.

First, the one who fears the Lord is “gracious” (v. 4). This virtue appears to have been lost on many contemporary Christians. Far too many Christians have forgotten how to be gracious toward one another, particularly those with whom they disagree. Christians are often too quick to harshly criticise those whose opinions differ with what they believe. It is almost disgraceful to witness the way in which Christians talk to each other on Twitter and Facebook, even if they are more gracious face to face.

Second, the one who fears the Lord is “merciful” (v. 4). Mercy implies kindness and forgiveness. Too often, Christian interactions are riddled with harshness and bitterness. God’s mercy to us atones for our sins and offers forgiveness. Are we quick to extend forgiveness and understanding toward those against whom we take offence, or are we quicker to assume the worst and write them off?

Third, the one who fears the Lord is “righteous” (v. 4). Since v. 5 addresses the need to conduct one’s affairs with justice (or righteousness), here the psalmist probably has the idea of a righteous outlook or worldview in mind. Those who fear the Lord are not easily taken in by lies and deception but pursue righteous thinking in their approach to life.

Fourth, the one who fears the Lord “deals generously and lends” (v. 5). Stinginess is not a characteristic of one who fears the Lord. Those who fear the Lord do not do all they can to hold onto what God has given them but are quick to share with others in need.

Fifth, the one who fears the Lord “conducts his affairs with justice” (v. 5). His righteous thinking leads to righteous living. He does not mistreat others but treats them with respect and honour. He does not give himself to things that dishonour the Lord but seeks to live a live in keeping with God’s righteous standards. Simply put, he purifies himself as his Lord is pure.

Sixth, the one who fears the Lord “is not afraid of bad news” because “his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD” (v. 7). He does not assume the worst of every situation but trusts that the Lord has even the worst of circumstances under control.

This devotion angers those who do not fear the Lord. In rage, they gnash their teeth before they melt away and perish (v. 10).

As you enter a fresh day, allow Psalm 112 to speak to your attitude and your actions today. Are you characterised by the righteous character described in this psalm or does such Christlikeness anger you? That is the difference between those who fear and hate the Lord.